Special Report Cambodia

for official use only


February 1996


An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited Cambodia from 14 to 27 January 1996 to estimate 1995/96 production of wet and dry season rice and evaluate the overall outlook for cereals in 1996. The Mission reviewed data from various sources, including Government, FAO project TCP/CMB/4452 and a survey of communes undertaken by WFP, FAO and the Cambodian Red Cross. In addition, discussions were held with Government, UN agencies, donors and NGOs at central, provincial and local level. During its assessment the Mission visited three major rice growing provinces; Stem Reap, Takeo and Prey Veng

The Mission estimates production of the main, wet season, rice crop in 1995/96 at 2.785 million tons and forecasts output of the second, dry season, crop at 0.533 million tons, giving a total 3.318 million tons, some 40 percent above estimated production in 1994/95 and 30 percent higher than the average for the preceding five years. Exceptional rice production in 1995/96 is attributed to favourable rainfall over most of the country and an increase in the use of fertilizers, which together encouraged an expansion in planting and favoured crop development. The national requirement of rice after losses, for consumption and other uses, in 1996 is estimated at 1.918 million tons. As there are no known stocks carried over from last year, total rice availability in the country in 1996 is estimated to be the same as total output, i.e. 3.318 million tons of paddy or 2 057 million tons of rice leaving a surplus of 139 000 tons.

In view of the surplus, the Government expressed plans to export some 100 000 tons of rice in 1996. However, the mission feels that exports are ill-advised at this stage for the following reasons;

The number of vulnerable people in the 291 communes facing food shortage is yet to be ascertained. An assessment, is currently being made by WFP in association with the Cambodian Red Cross and other implementing partners of WFP. The number may be fairly large and the total quantity of cereals required may be substantial. However, in the interim, assuming no widespread displacement of people, some 60 000 tons of rice and 3 000 tons of other commodities would be needed in 1996 to support the most vulnerable people in various communes. This is sufficient for supporting 1.56 million people, discounting institutional feeding and training activities, for about three months. As of 1 January 1996, WFP held stocks of 13 151 tons of rice and had secured additional pledges of 36 800 tons from donors, amounting to 49 951 tons. This, therefore, leaves a shortfall of some 10 000 tons needed to make up the 60 000 tons required. In addition, it is recommended that the Government, with donor support, purchase and keep a stock of some 25 000 tons of rice for emergencies. It is also suggested that WFP and bilateral donors make local purchases for programmes to assist vulnerable people.


The Cambodian economy is still severely constrained by the ill effects of the destruction of national infrastructure and production systems, following the war and economic embargo during the 1970s and the 1980s. The current national per caput income, at about U.S.$ 200, is one of the lowest in the world and one estimate shows 38 percent of households to be below the poverty line. The Government is currently finalizing a development plan for the period 1996-2000, aimed at rehabilitation of production systems, acceleration of economic growth and poverty alleviation. The Plan signals an intensification of Cambodia’s development process within the framework of a market economy.

Agriculture, remains the mainstay of the economy, accounting for about one half the country’s GDP and employing about 80 percent of the labour force. Employment opportunities outside agriculture are extremely limited. Economic recovery and progress, therefore, will crucially depend on agricultural rehabilitation and development. The sector is dominated by rice subsistence farming. Although it is recognized by the Government that diversification of crops might reduce the dependence on rice in the long term, no programmes to achieve this have been initiated to date. The sector is largely rainfed and characterized by limited inputs and low yields. Adverse weather conditions, such as floods and droughts, constrain production in some years, as do the prevalence of land mines and civil strife in parts of the country. The irrigation system remains largely inoperable and in urgent need of rehabilitation. Fertilizer use remains very low as does the use of improved rice varieties.

The main rice crop is produced in the wet season between May and December. A number of different varieties are planted with medium and late maturing varieties accounting for about three-quarters of the total area planted, early maturing varieties accounting for around one fifth and floating rice the remaining 5-6 percent. Farmers’ decisions on which variety to plant are often influenced by tradition and rainfall. Overall the importance of floating rice is diminishing in terms of area planted whilst that of upland rice has remained fairly stable over the years.

Wet season production is largely dependent on local varieties with low fertilizer inputs. Yields, therefore, are usually more dependent on silt deposits from rivers along which rice is planted. The dry season crop is planted in January/February and accounts for around 10 percent of the total area planted. However, due to much higher yields compared to wet season rice, the crop represents some 16-18 percent of total production. Most of the dry season crop is transplanted in areas where farmers can take advantage of receding water and supplementary irrigation is only used late in the crop cycle.

As in other countries of Indo-China, rice is the major foodcrop in Cambodia. Due to past disturbances, however, output has fluctuated, though over the last few years it has steadily increased except in 1994/95 when it fell sharply due to adverse weather. Production is largely subsistence based and as farmers mostly grow local varieties and use relatively small quantities of inputs, yields remain low. For the 1995/96 season the harvested area of wet and dry rice is projected at 1.592 million hectares and 0.191 million hectares respectively, giving a total of 1.782 million hectares. Total output is estimated at 3.318 million tons, comprising 2.785 million tons of wet season rice and 0.533 million tons of dry season rice. (See Table 1). Overall the average yield of wet season rice is estimated at 1.75 tons/hectare, which is significantly higher than in previous years, and dry season yield at 2.80 tons/hectare. The use of improved varieties and larger quantities of fertilizers in the dry season mean that yields are usually substantially higher than those in the wet season.

Table 1: Production of paddy rice by type 1995/96

Area harvested Production
Hectares (‘000) Percent Tons Percent Yield (tons/ha)
Wet season
Early varieties 302 461 17.0 499 061 15.0 1.65
Medium varieties 614 474 34.5 1 020 027 30.7 1.66
Late varieties 571 492 32.1 1 097 265 33.1 1.92
Floating paddy 71 616 4.0 168 547 5.1 1.63
Upland paddy 31 838 1.8
Sub-total 1 591 881 89.3 2 784 900 83.9 1.75
Dryland paddy 190 500 10.7 533 400 16.1 2.80
TOTAL 1 782 381 100.0 3 318 300 100.0 1.86

The major rice producing areas are in low lying regions around lake Tonle Sap and along major rivers, of which the Mekong River is by far the largest. These areas are naturally vulnerable to flooding, which can result in increased fertility through silt deposits, though conversely can destroy crops in some years. In 1994/95. for example, floods caused the loss of some 425 000 hectares. In comparison, the 1995/96 wet season was more favourable with only 195 000 hectares estimated to be totally lost, 90 percent due to floods and the balance to disease and pests. Moreover, abundant and well distributed rainfall over much of the rice growing area, encouraged timely planting and crop development during the 1995/96 wet season, resulting in a substantial increase in yield and production.

Next to rice, maize is the second most important foodcrop, with production estimated at 50 000 tons from an area of 45 000 hectares in 1995/96. Less important crops include cassava and sweet potatoes, with production estimated at 100 000 tons from 19 000 hectares. Vegetables are also grown on an estimated 25 000 hectares with a potential for 150 000 tons. Minor crops such as sesame, mung beans, soya beans and groundnuts are also grown, but their dietary significance is limited and varies from province to province. As current statistical information on crops other than rice was difficult to obtain, Mission estimates are based on historic data and discussions.

Increased rice production in 1995/96 can be attributed to several factors, including;

However, although the 1995/96 crop was favourable and resulted in a national surplus, this should not lead to undue optimism. Certain areas of the country still have a food deficit and need assistance. The Mission has identified such areas and WFP is currently conducting more in-depth surveys.


The absence of a population census for a considerable period means that there are several estimates of population many of which are based on arbitrary assumptions. Based on data collected by the FAO statistics project and WFP commune surveys, population is estimated at 10.2 million as of December 1995. By using a generally acceptable growth rate of 2.8 percent per annum, the mid-year population for 1996 is estimated at 10.4 million,the number used by the mission.

The Government does not hold any stocks of rice or other cereals at national or any other level. Although it is possible that some large farmers and private traders hold stocks, no data were available. In any event, the level of carry over stocks is unlikely to be significant as rice output in 1994/95 was drastically reduced due to floods. As of 1 January 1996, the only known stocks in the country were 13 151 tons of rice held by WFP

In view of an overall rice surplus in 1996, estimated by the mission at 139 000 tons (Table 2), the Government is planning to export some 100 000 tons this year. However, as this is the first year in a decade and a half that there has been a surplus, the Government is urged to be cautious in exporting rice. Firstly emergency stocks should be maintained as the impact of weather on production in the coming years is unpredictable. Secondly, unofficial cross border exports, the extent of which cannot be determined, could mean that the surplus is not actually as large as has been calculated. Thirdly, as many as 291 communes in the main rice growing provinces face food shortages of varying levels due to crop losses caused by floods. Large segments of the affected population will need food assistance for varying lengths of time to meet minimum calorie requirements. Moreover, these vulnerable people do not have ready access to food from surplus areas because of a lack of employment, low purchasing power and restricted movement of supplies from one area to another due to constraints in the marketing system.

The estimation of national consumption requirements was a subject of considerable discussion. Up to 1995, the Government made an allowance of 162 kg of rice per person/annum or 444 grams per person/day, accounting for 73 percent of the average energy requirement estimated at 2 200 Kcal per day. But, for 1996, the allowance has been reduced to 151.2 kg of rice per person/annum or 414 g per person/day, which would meet 68 percent of the average energy requirement. However, in the past, the 162 kg included not only rice but also the rice equivalent of subsidiary crops such as maize, beans, roots and tubers. After discussions with the Government and other agencies, the Mission accepted that 151.2 kg should be allowed for rice only, with 32 percent of energy requirement coming from other food sources. It should be pointed out , however, that rural people eat mostly rice and little else, particularly when rice is in plentiful supply. Given that rice is in relatively better supply this year it can , therefore, be assumed that its consumption is likely to be higher. Hence, a rice allowance of 151.2 kg per person/annum of is considered to be conservative.

A number of opinions regarding seed ratio and seed use was presented to the Mission, including the Government estimate of 8 percent of production, which the mission felt to be well in excess of requirement. Farmers, on the other hand, make a provision of 80 -100 kg of seed per hectare. The mission used a seed rate equivalent to 5 percent of production.

Post harvest losses have never been systematically studied in Cambodia, though the estimate of 5 percent used by the Government appears to be very low. Overall, studies in other countries of the region indicate that a post harvest loss of 13-15 percent is acceptable as normal. The Mission, therefore, has allowed 10 percent for post harvest losses, plus an additional 2 percent for feed and other uses.

The utilization of milled rice in 1996, calculated on the basis of the above parameters, therefore works out to be 1 568 000 tons for human consumption, 144 000 tons for seed and feed and 206 000 tons for post-harvest losses, giving a total of 1 918 000 tons. The availability of rice for 1996, on the other hand, is estimated at 2 057 000 tons, using a conversion ratio of 62 percent. The difference between availability and utilization, therefore, leaves a surplus of 139 000 tons.

The rice balance sheet for 1995/96 is set out in Table 2, while the situation by province is indicated in Table 3.

Table 2 Rice balance sheet 1996 (January/December)

Rice (‘000 tons)
1. Total availability (2+3) 2 057
2. 1995/96 production 2 057
Wet season (estimate) 1 726
Dry season (forecast) 331
3. Stock drawdown -
4. Total utilization (5+6+7) 1 918
5. Food use 1 568
6. Feed and seed 144
7. Post-harvest losses 206
8. Surplus 139

Table 3: Rice Balance by Province 1995/96

Population 1996 ('000)
1995 paddy production ('000 t)
Post-harvest losses - 1995 ('000 t)
1995 production after losses ('000 t)
Est. 1996 consumption ('000 t)
Est. surplus/deficit 1996 ('000 t)
Milled rice
Milled rice
Milled rice
PHNOM PENH 728.3 16.1 2.7 13.4 8.3 177.6 110.1 (164.2) (101.8)
KANDAL 984.4 262.4 44.6 217.8 135.0 240.1 148.8 (22.2) (13.8)
KAMPONG CHAM 1 513.5 290.1 49.3 240.8 149.3 369.1 228.8 (128.3) (79.6)
SVAY RIENG 474.2 176.5 30.0 146.5 90.8 115.6 71.7 30.8 19.1
PREY VENG 990.3 460.8 78.3 382.5 237.1 241.5 149.7 140.9 87.4
TAKEO 753.3 419.4 71.3 348.1 215.8 183.7 113.9 164.4 101.9
KAMPONG THOM 559.5 190.1 32.3 157.8 97.8 136.5 84.6 21.3 13.2
SIEM REAP 662.5 235.1 40.0 195.1 121.0 161.6 100.2 33.6 20.8
BATTAMBANG 716.6 327.0 55.6 271.4 168.3 174.8 108.3 96.6 59.9
BANTEAY MEANCHEY 544.6 185.9 31.6 154.3 95.7 132.8 82.3 21.4 13.3
PURSAT 324.3 119.1 20.2 98.9 61.3 79.1 49.0 19.7 12.3
KAMPONG CHHNANG 349.6 138.7 23.6 115.1 71.4 85.3 52.9 29.9 18.5
KAMPOT 517.3 175.3 29.8 145.5 90.2 126.2 78.2 19.3 12.0
KAMPONG SPEU 557.2 152.9 26.0 126.9 78.7 135.9 84.3 (9.0) (5.6)
KRATIE 228.5 50.3 8.6 41.7 25.9 55.7 34.6 (14.0) (8.7)
OTHER PROVINCES 464.2 118.6 20.2 98.4 61.0 113.2 70.2 (14.7) (9.2)
CAMBODIA 10 368.3 3 318.3 564.1 2 754.2 1 707.6 2 528.7 1 567.6 225.5 139.7


The Mission confirms a good 1995/96 rice harvest with an overall national surplus in 1996. However, this does not mean that Cambodia has achieved food security at individual, household or community level as many communes face rice shortages of differing degrees, as a consequence of crop losses due to floods and limited availability of land. Poverty persists and humanitarian as well as development assistance, for which food aid is an appropriate vehicle given that 80 percent of the population are subsistence farmers, must be provided as a priority to vulnerable communities. These include 291 affected communes (about 21 percent of all communes in the 15 main rice growing provinces), of which 232 are chronically food deficit, having suffered further production losses in 1995/96 due to floods and other reasons. There is, therefore, need for both emergency and programme food aid to enable vulnerable people to meet their minimum food requirement, rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure and improve agricultural performance. While there will be some emergency feeding, a large portion of food aid will be implemented through food-for-work activities. A WFP Community Assessment Survey, including crop assessments, social and economic surveys and the use of GIS systems, is ongoing to determine the final target commune list and food aid needs. Nevertheless, pending the completion of this assessment, based on past experience and assuming that no widespread displacement of people will occur, the food aid need for 1996 to assist the most vulnerable communities have been assessed to be around 60 000 metric tons of rice plus some 3 000 metric tons of other commodities. This is sufficient to support 1.56 million people, discounting institutional feeding and training activities, for about three months. This total includes the most needy in all the vulnerable categories mentioned above. For the special population, calculations are based on the assumption that 60 000 returnees need continued assistance during 1996. It is also assumed that at any given time during the year an average of 80 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be assisted either with emergency rations or through food for work. Under this, in the case of immediate needs, a one month ration is provided, whilst for future assistance the recipients are asked to participate in food for work activities. An emergency food aid stock of some 25 000 tons of rice to be carried forward is also recommended since the situation in Cambodia tends to change rapidly. Table 4 sets out the food aid requirement for 1996 and table 5 shows the number of communes facing food deficit of various degrees in 1996 by province.

As at 1 January 1996, WFP held a rice stock of 13 151 tons and has also secured an additional 36 800 tons commitment from various donors, including the local purchase of 15 000 tons. Additional donor contributions are expected during the course of 1996. With the availability of a rice surplus in Cambodia in 1996, WFP will, in consultation with donor countries, investigate the possibility of local purchase of rice. With the exception of 1995, when the 1994/95 wet season crop was drastically reduced, WFP locally purchased significant amounts of Cambodian rice in the past years:

1992: 4 000 tons
1993: 10 480 tons
1994: 6 043 tons
1995: 148 tons

Table 4: Food aid (rice) balance 1996 (‘000 tons)

Rice (‘000 tons)
1. Total food (rice) aid requirement in 1996 (2+3) 85
2. Emergency and programme food aid 60
3. Emergency food aid stock build up 25
4. Total food aid availability (5+6) 85
5. WFP stocks and pipeline 50
6. Not yet covered 35

Programme implementation and logistics

While there will be a need for some emergency feeding, the large portion of the food aid will be utilized through food-for-work activities, under a programme concept, for building/rehabilitating roads and various other agricultural infrastructures. The WFP Programme stresses the participatory approach and encourages both village leaders and villagers to identify their own rehabilitation priorities. Once the project is appraised at the site, an agreement is signed between the village, WFP and participating Government Department, NGOs or International Organization, specifying the outputs and food payments. While the Ministry of Rural Development acts as the main coordination-ordination authority of the WFP programme, over 150 different NGOs, International Organizations and Government Departments are currently involved in the WFP supported activities.

WFP currently has six regional sub-offices that cover two to three provinces. In provinces where there is no local office, WFP national staff share an office with the Cambodian Red Cross. Altogether it maintains space of its own in 15 provinces. The staff in the sub-offices are responsible for identifying, approving, monitoring and reporting on all village level projects as well as executing emergency assistance in their respective areas.

All aspects of food logistics for the WFP programme are covered through an annual agreement between WFP and the Cambodian Red Cross, the costs of which are met through ITSH funds. WFP is responsible for the receipt, primary transport and storage of all food commodities and operates warehouse facilities in six locations in the country. The Cambodian Red Cross is responsible for secondary transport of food from WFP stores to distribution points for all WFP-assisted programmes and for this purpose operates and maintains a fleet of 53 cargo trucks covered under the above agreement. For food-for-work projects, food aid is delivered directly to the beneficiaries.

Table 5: Number of communes with a rice deficit, by province, 1996

of Communes
in deficit 1996
in chronic deficit 1/
Phnom Penh 76 4 2
Kandal 147 19 17
Kampong Cham 193 52 43
Svay Rieng 80 17 17
Prey Veng 116 11 8
Takeo 99 13 10
Kampong Thom 81 24 12
Siem Reap 108 21 16
Battambang 66 8 3
Banteay Meanchey 62 12 4
Pursat 44 13 8
Kampong Chhnang 69 5 5
Kampot 95 37 34
Kampong Speu 86 40 40
Kratie 46 15 13
Other Provinces - - -
Total 1 368 291 232

NOTES: A. Communes in deficit in 1996 are those in which:
more than 50% of the households are rice producers;
the average area of rice planted per rice producer is greater than 0.50 ha; and the rice paddy deficit per head is greater than 41 kg.
B. Communes in chronic deficit are those which would still be in deficit if there had been no crop loss.
1/ A subset of communes in deficit in 1996.


Non-availability of up-to-date and reliable data has been a serious bottleneck in production assessments in the past. The recently conducted survey by the FAO project “Training for agricultural statistics: (TCP/CMB/4452(T)) in four provinces and a 15 province WFP Commune Survey have formed a basis for generating more reliable agricultural statistics. The Mission is of the opinion that such surveys need to be repeated for at least another season in order to ensure a sound base line for future crop estimates.

Irrigation structures were severely damaged during civil strife and farmers have great difficulty in irrigating the dry season crop. It is strongly recommended that rehabilitation of irrigation structures be initiated to help improve dry season cultivation. Possibilities should also be explored to expand irrigation facilities to increase dry season cultivation which is more secure and better yielding.

The Mission noted that official estimates of post-harvest loss are seriously underestimated. So far no work in this area has been done in Cambodia. It is recommended, therefore, that an in-depth study of the issue is undertaken to establish what the real losses are and to advise both the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers on ways and means to reduce future losses.

The Mission recommends that active extension work is undertaken to educate farmers in the use of increased fertilizers. The ongoing FAO Plant Nutrition Unit/OSRO Fertilizer project has carried out field trials since 1991/92 and their findings form a solid basis for fertilizer recommendations. Dissemination of these findings through extension activities should improve crop production in the future.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required.

Abdur Rashid B. Szynalski
Chief, GIEWS FAO Director, OP, WFP
Telex 610181 FAO I Telex: 626675 WFP I
Fax: 0039-6-5225-4495 Fax: 0039-6-5228-2837